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*Niger Delta Women win NDDC, Shell support
By Ifeatu Agbu
Lately, some world leaders and diplomats are beginning to place a lot of value on the empowerment of women in the quest for development. For the American President, Barack Obama, “the best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it's educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward.” Mr. Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, is even more precise. He said: “When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.”
These views are in consonance with the African proverb which says: “Educate a man, you educate an individual. Educate a woman, you educate a community.” This timeworn saying may have informed the new strategy being adopted by development agencies in designing skill acquisition programmes in the country.
The radar of training programmes, particularly in the Niger Delta, hitherto beamed at militant youths, who are usually males is now spreading to cover females as well. The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has teamed up with Shell Petroleum Development Company to broaden its skills acquisition programme to especially target rural women across the oil-rich region. To say the least, this is quite commendable.
This is not the first time the Anglo-Dutch oil giant would be collaborating with the NDDC in the arduous task of fast-tracking development in the oil producing communities. They had previously partnered in the ambitious effort to build the Ogbia-Nembe Road, valued at N9.6 billion, a project several previous administrations thought was impossible. Now work on the 28 kilometre road, with 10 long bridges across very difficult terrain, is progressing appreciably. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigerian village women( some bare-footed ) attending a community function.
Such high profile collaborations are crucial to the success of vocational and technical training programmes for youths in the Niger Delta region. Of course, the gains are unquantifiable. Among other things they will aid conflict prevention, facilitate wealth creation and accelerate poverty reduction and economic empowerment, which will ensure sustainable and economic development of the region.
Some state governments in the Niger Delta have also started taking practical steps to leverage on human capital development. The Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said recently that what the nation needs most now was to change its focus from crude oil and other mineral resources to its abundant human resources.
He noted that some of the Asian tigers attained greatness in the world economy because they focused on the development of their human capital. “Japan achieved greatness not by the quantity of oil in their soil but by the quality of their human capital development and the patriotism of their people.” The success story of the Asian Tigers has continued to inspire government institutions across the world to place emphasis on human capital development. The management of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, is obviously mindful of this trend. It is, therefore, trying something new to suite the Nigerian situation.
The one-year compulsory service for graduates of tertiary institutions is incorporating skills acquisition into its orientation course programme. According to the Director General of NYSC, Brigadier General Nnamdi Thomas Okore-Affia, this would prepare corps members for the challenges of a dwindling job market. He said the thinking at the NYSC is that skills training would create a platform for the corps members to ease themselves into a productive life after service.
While it is crucial to arm the youths with skills that will give them financial freedom on a sustainable basis, it is important to note that youth corps members have already acquired some professional skills in the universities and polytechnics. Strictly speaking, they don’t need another “skill acquisition” training before contributing to the productive process of the country. After all, the universities are the highest institutions for the acquisition of qualitative skills.
All that our graduates need is to get employed, especially in their areas of competence and over time acquire the necessary experience to hone their skills. With the job situation in the country now, what the NYSC leadership should do is to organise entrepreneurial lectures for the corps members to re-orientate them to shift attention from looking for paid employment to creatively using the skills they already acquired to become self-employed. That is precisely the point made by the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Mr. Simeon Ajose who advised young graduates to create jobs with the skills they acquired at the tertiary level rather than wait for the few white-collar jobs. We must do something creative and innovative to engage our graduates because as Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi, a member of the House of Representatives, rightly said “university graduates without jobs are security risk.”
The best way for the government to assist our graduates is to create an enabling environment that would attract investors, who need the specialised training given by our institutions of higher learning. The high level of insecurity in the country now, to say the least, is a major disincentive to investors. Moreover, endemic corruption in our system, which has degenerated to brazen impunity, cannot but result in the relocation of companies that should employ our young graduates.
Over the years, successive governments have paid lip service to creating conducive atmosphere for job creation. At the beginning of every financial year, we hear of trillions of naira in the federal budgets, yet there are no good roads, no electricity, no water, no security and other basic fundamentals for creating jobs. We have had enough of the mismanagement of our common patrimony to the detriment of our country.
We must begin to genuinely give hope to the army of jobless youths roaming our streets. Properly managed skill acquisition programmes can go a long way in addressing this problem. However, beneficiaries of the programmes must be empowered to set up their own businesses. They should also be monitored and mentored to give them the necessary confidence and experience that would spring them into success and eventually transform them into employers of labour. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing Port Harcourt
With proper training and mentoring, an end will be put to the embarrassing situations where those that have benefitted from skill acquisition schemes and given starter-parks to enable them to be self-employed sell the tools and return to the labour market. Both the NDDC and Shell are familiar with these problems and have, therefore, devised means of tackling them. The strategy has been to work in partnership with financial institutions that would assist the youths with micro-credits. They also insist that the beneficiaries of skill acquisition programmes form cooperatives before they could access the micro-credit scheme meant to help them to establish their businesses. All over the country right now, there are many government and non-governmental agencies that are engaged in various types of skill-acquisition programmes. Ordinarily, this should be commended because people need skills to escape from the crowded and suffocating labour market.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian factor appears to have reared its ugly head in this noble scheme. This is evident in the engagement of incompetent organizations and individuals to handle the training programmes. Although such programmes are sometimes advertised to fulfill all righteousness, those given the assignments are often make-shift trainers who up till the commencement of the scheme had no training facilities or experience, but are nevertheless hand-picked because they have the right connection.
If the nation is to benefit from the various skill acquisition programmes, they must take place is recognized institutions with the right caliber of personnel and facilities. This is why NDDC should be given kudos for training youths in highly respected institutions such as the Songhai Delta in Amukpe and the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, in Effurun. While the Songhai Delta provides training in modern techniques of agriculture, poultry production, bee keeping, grass cutter production, piggery, agro-processing, among others, the PTI trains certified welders and other technical personnel needed in the oil and gas industry.
It is very encouraging that more women are now being brought into these training programmes. Hopefully, they should be given the benefit of learning in well organised and equipped institutions.
Mr. Ifeatu Agbu ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
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